Write Prose Like the Pros: Beats in the Dialogue

What are beats? Beats are bits of action narrated during dialogue. This would be called stage business or blocking when reading a stage play. There are also internal beats where a character has a short passage of interior monologue. Beats can help change the pace and tension of a scene depending on how many are used. Fewer beats give a faster pace and can help build tension in an argument scene. Too many beats can stop the pace of the story and move at the same speed as an entire page of narrative summary.

Don’t use too many beats and don’t use too few. What’s the right amount? It depends on the scene. Use fewer beats to build tension. Use more beats to slow things down and give the reader some time to breath. Peaks and valleys. In most cases, there only needs to be enough to keep the reader in the scene. If the scene takes place in a machine shop, an occasional commentary on noise being heard will remind the reader where the characters are speaking. Beats are also important for showing body language to the reader. This is as important as what the character says.

Beats help break up the page making it more engaging. A full page of a one paragraph narrative summary may look boring on the page. That narrative may be important but it’s easy to break it up with beats or internal beats. Through a couple internal beats into the paragraph and now there’s several paragraph on one page and some short internal monologue. But don’t overdo it. If it isn’t important to the story or plot and doesn’t help move the story or plot along its path, it isn’t needed. Do what’s right for the scene and the story overall.

The best place to learn how to improve one’s writing is with Renni Browne and Dave King’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.” If I were teaching a class on fiction writing, this is the book I would use as the course textbook.

Wacky Wednesday: May 27

I’m bringing you a few more fun words for today’s Wacky Wednesday. See if you can find ways to use these words in regular conversation and mess with your friends. Our first word is one many of you may have heard before. Discombobulate means to confuse, upset, or frustrate someone. Many of you may recall when Robert Downey Jr portrayed Sherlock Holmes (2009) and he used the word a couple of times. It is also the title of one of the compositions from Hans Zimmer for the film. It’s a fun song with violins and harpsichords.

Bumptious is an adjective which means offensively self-assertive or proud. I’m certain we’ve all met someone who was overly bumptious. Most often I’ve seen drunks and young boys like this. It is pronounced in a similar fashion as scrumptious or conscious. Absquatulate is a verb meaning to leave abruptly or to flee or abscond. Imagine a thief running from a place they had robbed. I’ll have more words to share and I’m in search of fun wacky stories to share. If you have any, I hope you’ll share them with me in the comments. Remember to say hello to your local Wild Wacky Inflatable Tube Man.

Coffee & Contemplation: Antelope Canyon

For many birthdays, I never put much effort into myself or what I wanted. I felt no one else would care or no one would put forth any effort on my account. That was the darkness of depression looming over me. On my most recent birthday, I only wanted one thing. I wanted a birthday cake because I couldn’t remember the last time I had one. A friend of mine made me a cake and it was the most delicious thing ever. That one simple thing meant so much to me. I got everything I asked for on my birthday. I don’t think that’s ever happened.

For my next birthday, I’ve decided to make it something more memorable. I live in Tucson, AZ. A few hours North, near the Stateline, is Page, AZ. Near Page, AZ is a beautiful place called Antelope Canyon. See the photo to the left. When I researched this, I realized I may not be able to afford the kind of trip I want. I still plan to go there, but maybe not this immediate next birthday. Regardless, I’m making an effort to celebrate myself. That’s something I’ve never done before.

Why Antelope Canyon? Well, it looks cool. It’s not too far away. And it’s something I could do with friends or by myself. I’m considering a solo adventure because, again, I’ve never celebrated myself before. I’m looking forward to planning a birthday adventure and enjoying myself for once in my life. Maybe I’ll visit some place closer for my birthday this year and save the Antelope Canyon trip for 2021. In either case, I’m doing something that’s all about me and no one else. There’s something empowering about that statement.